An up-and-down regular season concludes this week for the Oregon Ducks (19-10, 9-7) as conference play ends on the road against the Washington schools. With the Washington State Cougars (11-17, 3-13), the first game on Thursday, the Ducks cannot take this team lightly in Pullman.
Oregon’s victory last weekend over Arizona showed how lethal the Ducks could be. Elijah Brown was sensational, as his shot selection and free throw shooting made a significant impact. Strong defense on the other end helped the Ducks prevail in overtime in what was a must-win situation.
With the win, the Ducks keep their chances of the NCAA Tournament alive but will need to make a run in the Pac-12 Tournament to strengthen their current resume. Given the turmoil surrounding Arizona, the conference tournament is up for grabs.
The Ducks are riding a two-game winning streak and can keep the momentum going into the upcoming tournament with victories over the Washington schools. Oregon easily took care of business against Washington State in Eugene with an 84-57 win.
Despite a 3-13 record in conference play, the Cougars have been playing better basketball. Washington State had better success on the road against Stanford, unlike Oregon. Unfortunately, a three-pointer at the buzzer did not fall as the Cardinal escaped the Cougars, 86-84.
Robert Franks, the Cougars’ leading scorer, did not play in the first meeting against Ducks after suffering a knee injury against Oregon State. Ernie Kent did not want to risk Franks against the Ducks after feeling discomfort during the warmups in Eugene.
Franks is healthy and expects to make an impact this time in the lineup. Drick Bernstine and Malachi Flynn provide secondary scoring behind Franks, who look to end the regular season on a positive note.
Three-point shooting is the Cougars’ strength this season, hitting 313 currently this season. Washington State is the third team in Pac-12 history to make 300 three-pointers in a season. The current record is 354, set by UCLA last season.
The Cougars will hope to have better success behind the arc in the second go-around after only shooting 10-of-28 in Eugene. Kenny Wooten may not have much of a presence defensively should the Cougars catch fire from three-point range. Wooten made a critical impact against Arizona after being non-existent against the Los Angeles schools on the road.
Dana Altman’s biggest challenge this weekend is getting his team to bring home efforts on the road. Pac-12 teams have been suspected of poor playing on the road, and the Ducks must finish strong.
Regardless of the outcome, Oregon should at least come away with a 20-win season. An impressive mark despite the inconsistencies from a team in a transition year.
Tipoff begins at 6:00 p.m. PST with a telecast on ESPN2.